Invites all writers to share their own perspective

Table of contents

An Introduction to Millions of Suns 
Taking Flight: On Memory
Everything I Can’t Remember
Memory Prompts
The Clouds at Bearfence
Fresh Firecoal Chestnuts, Finches Wings
Imagery Prompts
Now Narrowly We Knew Her
Surprise Prompts
Wild Dogs and Pittsburgh Sunrise: When Inspiration Calls
Find a Door: Entering the Writing House
Inspiration Prompts
A Question about Metaphor
What my Metaphors Say
Metaphor Prompts
When I Say Here
To Reach the Moon: On Place
Place Prompts
When a Child Meets her Words
Confessions of an Acolyte: Regarding Jealousy and Ambition
Reading Prompts
White Space: The Fullness in Emptiness
The Thing of It: Prose as Physical Object
Structure Prompts
What is it Then Between Us?
The Fragile Planet
Present Moment Prompts
How to Build a Bicycle
The Power of Do-Over
Revision Prompts
Note to Self
Writer’s Block Prompts
Whatever is Lovely
Three Ways of Looking at Beauty
Beauty Prompts


Millions of Suns is an open invitation for all writers to create something new. Each chapter features a pair of essays-in-dialogue between two working artists, Sharon Fagan McDermott and M. C. Benner Dixon, which addresses a specific writing element such as metaphor, inspiration, place, surprise, or imagery. These hybrid essays reveal how two very different writers approach the building blocks of their craft. Explore how white space intersects with grief, how the act of reading changes over a lifetime, or how “familiarity, in life and in stories, invites us in and gives us a hand to hold.” Witness the ways that race and climate change find their way onto the page. Learn how memory can be an act of betrayal or healing.

With decades of combined teaching experience, McDermott and Benner Dixon share practical craft-of-writing advice with the reader, including over fifty engaging writing prompts to spark the creative process. These prompts guide readers toward the freedom and joy that comes with finding one’s authentic voice. Embracing both the painful and the playful, Millions of Suns is an ideal text for classrooms, professional development, or daily writing practice. Through humor, lyricism, and poignancy, the fundamental message of the book remains the same for newcomers and career authors, whether they write poetry, fiction, non-fiction, or memoir. Let Millions of Suns open a door for you into your creative work, inviting imagination, memory, and inspiration into your writing life.

Sharon Fagan McDermott is an award-winning Upper School English Teacher at Winchester Thurston School. Her books of poetry include Life without Furniture, Bitter Acoustic, Alley Scatting, and Voluptuous. 
M. C. Benner Dixon is an editor, writer, and writing coach. Her book The Height of Land is the winner of the Orison Fiction Prize. 

“During my decades of teaching creative writing, I’ve often longed for a book like this—not a dull craft book, a how-to book that turns writing into a math problem, but a lively invitation into the magic and wonder of it, as well as the frustrations and self doubts. The warmth and humanity of these writers comes through every page as they welcome us into their writing lives. The collaborative nature of this work, with separate essays by both authors, offers a fresh, unique perspective—there is not just one way to write. This book provides comfort in that knowledge, allowing readers the flexibility to explore, to chart their own paths. These two honest, intimate, and at times vulnerable voices offer constant assurance—even in the writing prompts!” 
—Jim Daniels, Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English Emeritus, Carnegie Mellon University

- Jim Daniels

“In clear radiant prose, McDermott and Dixon create a dialogue about the role that art, nature, family and friendship have played in their respective writing practices. They courageously discuss elusive concepts such as inspiration and transcendence, as well as sharing their skepticism about beauty, but these skilled wordsmiths always bring our attention back to the practical business of writing and revision. Each chapter includes inspiration-prompts to nudge us forward in our own attempts to write and explore. Millions of Suns is much more than a guide to writing, although it does a credible job at that task; it is a gift that inspires us to find grace in the world and forgiveness for ourselves.”
—Michael Simms, author of The Talon Trilogy

- Michael Simms

“This book is just what I’ve been looking for! Filled with essays that dive into writing craft and the writerly life, with fresh and unique prompts, this book offers real encouragement and wisdom. I’ll be assigning it to the MFA students I teach and recommending it to friends. I needed an updated, contemporary, inspirational, and honest book—and, in particular, was looking for one that spoke to environmental and social justice. This book fits the bill.”
—Laura Pritchett, Director of the MFA in Nature Writing at Western Colorado University, PEN-USA award winning author

- Laura Pritchett

"While the book does offer tips and strategies for writers new and old, the authors never allow things to get bogged down in the purely academic. Instead, the reader is invited to participate in a very smart and at times quite moving conversation about the art of putting words on paper."

- Kristofer Collins, Pittsburgh Magazine

Winner: 18th National Indie Excellence Awards Writing & Publishing Category | June 13, 2024
Finalist: 2024 International Book Awards, Nonfiction: Creative Category | June 18, 2024
Watch: Book Trailer | October 13, 2023
Watch: Book Origin Story | October 13, 2023
Watch: M. C. Benner Dixon reads an excerpt from Chapter 4 at the book launch | Jan 1, 2024
Watch: Sharon Fagan McDermott reads an excerpt from Chapter 1 at the book launch | Jan 1, 2024
Watch: Author Interview on KDKA Talk Pittsburgh | March 4, 2024
Read: Excerpt in Literary Hub | November 17, 2023
Listen: An interview with the authors on The Creative Penn Podcast | Feb 19, 2024